The Jakarta Post
President Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo is in South Sumatra, where he is scheduled to stay for several days to supervise ongoing efforts to tackle haze caused by slash-and-burn farming blanketing parts of the country.
Jokowi decided to cut short his trip to the US, flying directly to Palembang, South Sumatra, from Washington, DC, via the Netherlands and United Arab Emirates, in order to monitor directly the efforts to extinguish the troublesome fires.
After holding a meeting to discuss mitigation efforts with a number of ministers on Thursday in Ogan Komering Ilir regency ' the temporary base of his administration ' Jokowi paid a visit to a community health center (Puskesmas) and a shelter at the Kayuagung General Hospital to inspect the services there.
'I just want to make sure [the healthcare facilities are ready],' Jokowi said, adding that he had found the rooms prepared for patients with haze-related complaints were empty.
Jokowi is also scheduled to visit a number of affected areas in Jambi on Friday and may also go to Palangkaraya in Central Kalimantan to monitor similar efforts there.
More than 500,000 people have reportedly been severely affected by the crisis, with thousands, mostly children, hospitalized for severe respiratory issues brought on by the haze.
The National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) said on Thursday that the haze had claimed 12 lives between July and October this year. According to Social Affairs Minister Khofifah Indar Parawansa, the death toll has reached 19.
Downpours in Kalimantan and Sumatra on Tuesday dramatically reduced hot spots and increased visibility and air quality. However, in Padang, West Sumatra, the city administration decided on Thursday to extend school holidays for kindergarten up to senior high school until Saturday on fears that the haze would continue to degrade air quality in the city.
'The particulate matter [PM10] decreased in the morning but increased again this afternoon to 300Âµg/m3. We are afraid it will further increase tomorrow, so we decided to keep students at home,' Padang Education Agency head Habibul Fuadi said on Thursday.
According to the government's existing guidelines, air quality is considered 'healthy' if its PM10 level stands below 50 Âµg/mÂ³, 'moderate' when the level stands between 50 and 150 Âµg/mÂ³, 'unhealthy' between 150 and 350 Âµg/mÂ³, 'very unhealthy' between 350 and 420 Âµg/mÂ³ and 'dangerous' when it surpasses 420 Âµg/mÂ³.
Haze continues to linger over Riau, meanwhile, with thin smoke still evident Thursday morning, reducing visibility.
According to the provincial administration, the number of people suffering from haze-related diseases in Riau as of Thursday was 95,190, with most suffering from acute respiratory infections (ISPA).
In Jambi, the police have completed the dossiers of eight people suspected of forest-burning and illegal logging cases in West Tanjung Jabung regency. The local prosecutor's office has also declared the dossiers complete.
'To be processed further, the investigators handed over the suspects to Kualatungkal Prosecutor's Office yesterday,' Jambi Police spokesperson Adj. Sr. Comr. Kuswahyudi Tresnadi said on Thursday.
' Syofiardi Bachyul JB in padang, rizal harahap in pekanbaru and Jon Afrizal in jambi contributed
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